How I use technology when I’m travelling

When I was travelling and living abroad full-time, I was basically a technology-free girl. This was pre-smart phones and tablets and although I had a laptop, it was way too heavy to lug in my backpack and usually stayed sitting on a desk wherever my home base was at the time.

Not me, though I wish I had that computer 🙂

But these days – well, that’s entirely another story. Let me start with my beloved smart phone (aka my “brain extension”). I was a bit of a late convert to iPhone ownership but I quickly discovered it has multiple fantastic uses for all kinds of things I wouldn’t have imagined. However, I didn’t travel with it “properly” (I didn’t get a local SIM card last year in Europe, and I couldn’t get coverage outside the cities in Tasmania) until my recent trip to Melbourne. And it really was a pleasure (and nobody is paying me to say this. Sadly. Maybe I could get some free iStuff?).

A simple example: we took the tram out to visit a friend of mine who lives about ten kilometres east of the city. I’ve stayed at her house before, but a few years back so I didn’t have a really good idea of exactly where it was. I knew which tram to take and on we hopped, and then I used the Google Maps feature of the iPhone to track where I was and then I would know when to get off the tram. So much easier than searching for street signs. Apparently the Melbourne transport people have a good app too, but I wasn’t organised enough to download it ahead of time – and turned out I really didn’t need to, anyway.

I used its basic features – the internet, email and camera – constantly during my trip, in much the same way as I would at home – a quick snap to send home to email over to my other half to prove our little boy was doing well; a quick Google search to check the opening hours of the museum we wanted to visit. I even used it to sneak in a few minutes here and there of work (see, I’m becoming partially location-independent now!) when my son was busily occupied doing something else.

My second big technology love is my iPad. I still consider it a luxury technology – it doesn’t replace either a mobile phone or a laptop – but I adore it. My iPad was particularly useful when we travelled around Tasmania, for two reasons: we were on the move a lot, and didn’t want to lug a laptop everywhere, and because we were mostly in rural areas, I needed something that used Telstra as it’s basically the only provider that works outside of Tasmanian cities. It was great to keep up-to-date with a small amount of work and for late night reading and emailing (although with my husband along on that trip, we nearly needed two!).

Tasmanian wilderness … not much mobile connectivity out here!

And now and again, I travel with my laptop, as I did during my week in Melbourne. With remote broadband WiFi it was fantastic, because we could video Skype back home to my husband (my little boy loved that) and to his grandmother too, and I could get work done while he napped or after he was in bed at night. Being based in one spot for the week meant it was more practical to bring a laptop along and it was great, and not even expensive. I spent my spare time that week not only working, but dreaming of other holidays – starting to look up information on Hong Kong, using it to compare cheap car hire since I was contemplating doing a day trip out of Melbourne (I ran out of time though!), keeping more up-to-date on Facebook than I usually can at home (when I usually spend at least part of the evening with my husband!) and even doing some fiction writing.

There is a little (old-fashioned) part of me that yearns for the old days of travel, where all the information you need wasn’t at your fingertips while you’re at your destination – when finding out if the Victoria Markets were open required chatting to a Melbourne local instead of doing on a search on your phone – but all in all, it’d be hard to go back to technology-free travel.

How much technology do you use when you travel? Could you live without it, now that you’ve got it?

Image of girl with laptop from Ed Yourdon (Flickr/CC)


  1. I still remember the days when planning for a trip in Europe, required me to send out for brochures from the various Tourist information centres, then sitting down with maps and planning routes and what museums or other worthwhile things to visit…it would take ages. Now it´s all so much simpler with computers and internet, although I must say I felt more of a thrill with all the old-fashioned planning.
    Of course I wouldn´t live without internet, gps, google maps, and the million other things we seem to need to plan our lives…

    • So true, Sami. I remember when my Mum and Dad planned our six-month campervanning trip around Europe (1985) the process was massively different – to book a hotel in London (our first stop, pre-campervan) I remember Mum telling me she wrote a letter (months in advance I assume) and received a mailed confirmation back. Sounds so old-fashioned now!

  2. It’s interesting to read about the gadgets people take on their travels! I don’t travel without my iphone and ipad.I love that you can look up something whilst on the road and can change your plans easily if you have to. As much as I loved travelling in the good old days without checking in, I couldn’t do it now. I might not be able to read a map again!

    • Yes, Jenny, you inspired me to do more iPad blogging on the road! And yes, it would be very had to do without our technology now that we’d know what we were missing.

  3. I agree that it would be hard to go back even though life was so much simpler (and our hubbies had more of our attention!) but the techie opportunities available now at such a relatively low investment and so much easier to comprehend than say video remote controls that I am all for this brave new world of technology!

    • Ha ha, a very good point about video remote controls Jo! I have major troubles with my air-conditioner’s control pad too. Why can’t it look like an iPhone or iPad?!

  4. I am a bit split on that. I miss the good old days of carefree travel, when I didn’t have to worry about loosing anything. Family and friends didn’t worry either. They didn’t expect me to call or email on a regular basis. Now with all that tech stuff they EXPECT me to be in touch. Of course, there’s the huge advantage of being able to work from just about anywhere, and I am thankful for that 🙂

    • Ooh – great point there, the “duty” of staying in touch – and if you don’t, they wonder why. Agreed, it was easier when I was travelling before and an email every week or two when an internet cafe appeared was all that was expected.

  5. I take everything technological with me in my backpack—phone, iPad, laptop. I also lug my good camera, too. It means I have everything with me and I can still write on my laptop during plane flights and in hotel rooms.

    I, too, remember the good ol’ days, in the not too distant past, when we read travel brochures and book our travel through an agent. They had to actually phone the airline for flights and the hotel to book us in! My, my how things have changed!

    • The times sure have changed, and fast! You are very dedicated to take everything with you. I’m not always that dedicated (especially the good camera bit) but when Mr4 is a bit older that will be easier I guess.

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